Royal Roads University commerce students Chris Vanderford and Cassie LeBlanc display the seed packaging they are selling as part of a class assignment.

Royal Roads University commerce students Chris Vanderford and Cassie LeBlanc display the seed packaging they are selling as part of a class assignment.

Online business ventures raise money for charity

Royal Roads University commerce students competing against each other in business

The school might not have any sports teams, but the competition is still heating up at Royal Roads University.

Students in the Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurial Management program are in the throes of an intense contest to see which of five groups can outperform the others in an online business venture challenge.

Each sale, marked by a familiar ‘ka-ching’ sound notification to at least one group’s cellphones, gets the teams closer to the ultimate goal of having their business bring in the most funds for charity.

Royal Roads University commerce students Chris Vanderford and Cassie LeBlanc display the seed packaging they are selling as part of a class assignment. And this, says professor Geoff Archer, is just about the closest thing the school has to varsity sports.

“They want to compete with each other. They want to prove, ‘hey I’m doing this better than you are,’” he said.

With early February’s snow firmly in the rear view mirror, many people might be starting to think about their gardens.

At least, that’s what Chris Vanderford’s group is banking on.

The Colwood resident and chief financial officer for Seeds for SIDS (seeds-for-sids.myshopify.com) said the idea came to the group after they decided they wanted to support Baby’s Breath, a support organization helping families that have dealt with sudden infant death syndrome.

Seeds seemed like a natural idea given their charity of choice.

“We liked the metaphor of tying seeds and growing beautiful flowers against the tragic loss of an infant,” said Vanderford, whose group had sold $500 worth of its product as of Feb. 17.

Students are tasked with using their marketing, accounting and promotion skills over the course of a month to raise as much money as possible for their charities.

Baby’s Breath was chosen because, between miscarriages and infant deaths, a large number of people are or know of someone who has been affected by the loss of a baby, Vanderford said.

With group members in Alberta and Ontario, Vanderford says it can be a challenge to co-ordinate meeting times online. But that challenge isn’t unique to their group, given that this is a blended online and on-campus program.

“Everyone has a day job that we’re all attending so we’re full-time students as well as being full-time whatever else we are … it comes down to a lot of day to day communication. A lot of phone calls, a lot of messaging,” he said.

One of Vanderford’s competitors is selling stylish socks, while another is raising funds via colouring books.

All of the ideas are original, but successful teams won’t rest on a good idea and will constantly be looking for ways to improve their business.

“The students have to roll with the punches. They have to adjust and they have to make decisions on the fly,” Archer said.

He sees value in the assignment for a number of reasons, but one of the most poignant learning aspects comes after the project has been completed.

“That’s when the students are reflecting back on this experience that they’ve had, which could be a pilot for something bigger,” he said.

A previous group of RRU students started Go Voluntouring, which combines luxury accommodations with volunteering and was later acquired by travel company Flight Centre.

Many students also end up turning over their business to the charities they’ve chosen to support.

Archer will be judging his students on 30 different criteria.

“From my perspective, it’s sort of a way of tricking people into being excited about writing a business plan,” he said.

The competition will continue until the end of the month and the students are scheduled to graduate from the program this summer.

The Other Competitors

  • 2City Sports – 2citysports.com – sports apparel for fans of teams located in two different cities. Supporting Right to Play.
  • A Little Different – alittledifferent.ca – stylish socks in support of Autism Speaks Canada.
  • Colouring for the Nina – colouring-for-the-nina.myshopify.com – colouring books with funds going to the Nina Haggarty Centre for the Arts.
  • Happiness Delivered – happiness-delivered-co.myshopify.com – selling “Happiness Kits” that include personal messages, chocolates, scented candles and more. Proceeds to Kids Help Phone.

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com

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